A wagon containing seven prisoners travels across the snowy, mountainous landscape, the soldiers taking them to the fort where they will ultimately meet their fate of decades of hard labour as punishment for their brutal crimes. Inside, sitting amongst the criminals is Sergeant Brown (Claudio Undari) and his daughter Sarah (Emma Cohen) who are planning to make their home at the destination, but could there be an ulterior motive for risking their lives with these ne'erdowells, no matter that they are chained up? One thinks little of pissing himself when the driver refuses to stop for him, and the generally uncouth nature is something the sergeant should probably be protecting the innocent, barely speaking Sarah from. But then the wagon halts - there is someone ahead.
Cut-Throats Nine has a reputation, and it's not of being one of the sweetest movies ever made. Back when Spaghetti Westerns were making their mark on the world of cinema, never mind the world of their genre, much was made of how violent they were in comparison with the more traditional works from Hollywood, and soon the culture had shifted as a more bloodthirsty strain of a variety of films became popular. In Westerns, Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch was often held up as the ultimate in violence, but he was as much affected by what the Europeans were doing as anyone else on the globe, which had their grounding in what Sergio Leone spawned with A Fistful of Dollars near the beginning of the nineteen-sixties.
By the time this was released, the violence had become an end in itself, leaving brutality the whole point of films for adults as censorship loosened and filmmakers, not only exploitation ones either, pushed the envelope of what was acceptable on the big screen. Thus this little item was awarded the description of the most violent Western of the seventies, perhaps one of the most of all time, lending it a certain cachet among film buffs who liked to explore the more extreme angle of their interests. It was perfectly true that there was a liberal dose of gore to be seen here, but it was by no means "fun" in the way the splatstick of eighties horror would come to be defined as, this was very grim indeed.
Not one ounce of humour in the whole affair, unless you counted the prisoner relieving himself in his own pants (rather that than someone else's one supposes), was allowed by director Joaquín Luis Romero Marchent, as it was the darker side of human nature he wished to present, the one which elevates greed and self-interest to the ultimate reason for living. This wasn't actually Italian, though, it sprang from the dying days of Franco's fascist Spain, and the none too cheery mood of the country's culture tended to be a reflection of the society and politics of the nation of origin, just as in Italy the turmoil the country was suffering brought about an upsurge in gritty and nasty entertainment. The greed enters into it when the subject of gold was brought up, since the men who stop the wagon believe it is carrying just that commodity.
Though when they have a look, they can see nothing but a bunch of grimy prisoners and the Sergeant with his daughter who are effectively disguised to blend in with the passengers, so they escape the murders of the soldiers, though they do not escape the wagon hurtling over the side of the road and into a ravine. It should be noted that the horses don’t escape that either, and were either very well-trained or were indeed thrown down a steep hill, which may be one reason for the sensitive not to watch, as if there were not enough of those already. Soon the still-chained convicts are trudging through the snow as ordered by Brown, since he is the one with the gun, and it is revealed precisely what happened to the gold the murderers failed to find, a neat concept because it explains why everyone sticks around even after they start to be bumped off one by one. With plenty of flashbacks to explain motives and a collection of souls denying their humanity to wallow in depravity (all except Sarah, who naturally suffers for her purity), Cut-Throats Nine was not exactly enjoyable, but it was unpleasantly compelling, and an obvious influence on Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight decades later. Music by Carmelo Bernaola.